Feeling trapped

What you can do to help stop Coronavirus spread

I’ve had Coronavirus on the brain for a while. Ever since the news of the virus hitting Northern Italy hard, I scour the news sources, sometimes bleary-eyed for some new bit of informtion.

By now we all know we should:

  • Practice social distancing
  • Not gather in large groups
  • Wash hands with soap and water. If not available, use hand sanitizer.
  • Cough and sneeze in your elbow or a tissue.

With that in mind, the news is bleak.

But here are a few stories that have stayed with me and are a great reminder about what we’re dealing with.

The first is from Dr. Emily Landon from the University of Chicago Medicine.

Her message hits to the heart of our current situation and the frustrating reality that the best most of us can do is to do nothing.

She says healthcare workers around the world are doing their part to help us through the pandemic. Now, we need to do our part.

If you haven’t seen it, you can watch Dr. Landon’s March 21 speech or read the transcript at:

Chicago’s Doctor’s Blunt Speech About COVID-19 Hits Home

And this message from Craig Spencer, MD in New York who (via Twitter) implores people to stay home. He says, “You might hear people say it isn’t bad. It is….I survivied Ebola. I fear COVID-19.”

Read the full account at Doctor Gives Harrowing Account of Life on the Frontline for Clinicians Treating COVID-19 in New York

Get the facts

For information about COVID-19, what it is, and how to protect you and your family go to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website at Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do to help this crisis pass any faster except follow your state and local guidelines.

And be patient.

Take advantage of the downtime to:

Exercise.

Even if it’s a walk around the block, a short workout, or a dance party in your living room.

Get stuff done.

Pick up those projects you’ve been putting off. It can be hard to get motivated, but start small and keep at it. Little by little you can do a lot.

Get outside.

It’s a sunny 88 degrees as I write this. Outside in the shade would be good. And even when outdoors, keep your recommended 6-feet social distance.

Waste nothing.

Freeze food before it goes bad. Be creative with your meals.

Meet virtually.

We’ve resorted to live-video, group workouts and virtual coffee meetings using What’s App. It’s not the same as being there, but it’s better than going it alone.

Donate time and/or money

If you have the time or money, check with your local Red Cross to find your local chapter about how you can help. They may even have ways to volunteer virtually.

As always, a little gratitude goes a long way.

Reach out to others if you need a word of encouragement, a videochat, a roll of toilet paper, an egg…whatever.

Wishing you patience and health through this crisis.

Need some motivation to kick start your new project? Read What are you waiting for? on the blog.

axe throw

Deep thought for the day: Who are you?

My family and I were big fans of The Walking Dead a few years ago. It sparked some interesting discussion around what we would do in the unlikely event of a zombie apocalypse.

My son and husband went through a bow and arrow phase, then an axe-throwing phase.

It’s for fun and recreation, of course, but we also joked about it being great training for the Zombie Apolalypse.

We’d imagine banding together as a family to fight off zombies in a Zombieland or Shaun of the Dead way, not in a Night of the Living Dead or Walking Dead way. The latter being way too terrifying.

It’s a joke we can run a long way with, for sure.

But we’re not bomb shelter, doomsday preppers kind of people. We don’t have a closet full of canned food or MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat).

And although we kid about preparing for the Zombie Apolcalypse, it did raise some interesting discussions about what we would do in the event of an actual catastrophic event. 

COVID-19 pandemic is not the Zombie Apolalypse, but it has disrupted every aspect of our lives.

And it’s got me thinking about human nature and the way we humans act in times of uncertainty. 

The saying goes, We show our true selves in times of crisis. 

So the question is, who are you? (Matt Damon’s character asks the question in the movie Ford vs. Ferrari which I streamed this past weekend so I’ll just borrow it here. Great movie, BTW.)

Am I the type of person who’ll do anything for my family, including buying up all the toilet paper and clearing the shelves of hand sanitizer and masks so I can turn a profit on eBay?

Because I can make a nice profit and my family needs to live too. Supply and demand, baby. You need hand sanitizer, can’t find it, don’t mind spending $10 on something that costs me a dollar? Sold. 

Hey, extreme circumstances, y’know?

These are not normal times, for sure. And what can any of us do about it? We’re just trying to make it through.

Before I judge that guy, I can look at my own actions. Am I acting in a responsible and ethical way?

I’ve been looking for a dozen eggs for a while. Haven’t found any. But the terrible thing is, I have about a half dozen. Why am I looking for something I already have?

The current situation: Mark and I have what we need even though it may not be exactly what we want.

Plus, we’ve ordered plenty of takeout in an attempt to do what little we can to help our local businesses. And so we don’t have to cook.

Those are little things.

Some people are doing big things. Health care workers, public servants and non-profit staff and volunteers who care help people in the community are at the front lines of this thing. They may have to make tough choices that affect lives and livelihoods.

Not me. My job right now is to do what I can, like don’t panic buy, follow social-distancing guidelines, and stay home.

That sounds so much less bad-ass than fighting off zombies, but that’s where we are.

We show our true selves in times of crisis, or said another way, as you pass the days with the current COVID-19 reality, consider the question: Who are you?

Interestingly, this is not the first blogpost in which I reference zombies : ) For another, read Violence in a zombie world

Affirmations featured image

Use affirmations to shift your mindset

I’m trying to get in the daily habit of using the most uplifting affirmations I have in my arsenal.

Why? Because they’re amazing!

When I feel sad, frustrated, discouraged, angry, or doubtful about life and things, saying this one, simple statement (affirmation) helps to shift my mindset:

I am brilliant, bright, and beautiful.

What exactly is an affirmation and why would I use one?

An affirmation is a positive statement you can say mentally or out loud, a statement that says what you want or who you want to be. Using affirmations is a way of claiming that thing for yourself, of putting your desire out into the Universe.

Lots of self-help books recommend practicing affirmations as a way of maintaining a positive mindset.

Shift the focus

This favorite affirmation works like magic to help me shift the focus from self-doubt to positivity. 

It’s something I say to shift my mindset, to remind myself that I am brilliant, bright, and beautiful.

The thing about this affirmation is that I don’t feel vain or braggy when I say it because it’s really not about me. I didn’t make myself brilliant, bright, and beautiful.

Which leads me to another one of my favorites: I am a miracle of creation. The force that guides the stars guides me too. 

Whether you call the “force that guides the stars” God or the Universe or Mother Nature or whatever, the idea is that I (imperfect me) am an amazing part of creation, no less than the stars. 

And so are you.

You are brilliant, bright, and beautiful. 

Sounds simple. Does it work?

When I feel unmotivated and down on myself and like I have nothing to offer anyone and I’m a screw up and my work is of no significance and tons of other negative thoughts that knock me down, these affirmations help lift me up.

I challenge you to give it a try when you feel discouraged or frustrated.

Say it with conviction: I am brilliant, bright, and beautiful. Repeat as needed. Let the words sink in until you feel them to your bones.

If these affirmations don’t quite work for you, find another one you like.

Here are some ideas:

  • I have all I need to create the life I desire.
  • Love is the answer.
  • I choose the path of courage.
  • Today is what I have and I will make the most of it.
  • I let go of all I can’t control. Not my circus, not my monkeys.
  • One day at a time.

Affirmation practice

Find one that works for you and then practice it.

Say it every day, several times a day if you can.

But at the very least, when you need a mindset shift remember to affirm yourself.

Remember that you are brilliant, bright, and beautiful. You are a miracle of creation. 

Shine on!

Dolly Parton's America

Have you heard Dolly Parton’s America?

I’d heard about Dolly Parton’s America podcast, had seen it come up as one of the most popular podcasts on my phone (Applepodcasts).

Not sure why I passed it up at first. I like Dolly, but I’m not a huge Country Music fan. I only know her pop songs, like “9 to 5” and “I Will Always Love You.” I couldn’t see the point of the podcast.

But it kept coming up so I decided to give it a listen.

Just a few minutes into Episode #1, I was hooked. 

Dolly Parton’s America is a 9 Episode podcast that dives into Dolly Parton, the Unifier. 

She’s everywhere

The show came about when Had Abumrad, a journalist who grew up in Dolly’s home state of Tennessee, attended a Dolly Parton concert in New York city.

He had never given much thought to just how big Dolly was, never thought much about her presence.

Until the concert. He marveled at the wide range of people of all races, ages, nationalities, and income levels who love her. He wondered, How could this country singer from Tennessee bring all these people together? Could she be a Unifier even in the current climate of political polarization? 

He wanted to learn more. And, it turns out, he had an “in” to getting an interview with Dolly Parton. His dad knows her! (Seems odd, but the show covers the connection.)

He started with one interview which turned into the WNYC’s 9 episode podcast: Dolly Parton’s America.

I found the podcast interesting, funny, and entertaining. You don’t have to be a fan to get something out of it, but especially if you love Dolly, it’s a must listen.

Takeaways

Dolly Parton’s story is a rags (literally) to riches story, for sure. But she’s also super smart, talented, candid, and seems to genuinely care about people.  

My big takeaways and what I learned from Dolly Parton on this podcast: 

  • Work hard
  • Stay the course
  • Believe in yourself
  • Look for the good in people
  • Keep your sense of humor
  • If you’re going to be the butt of a joke, beat ’em to the punch
  • Know what you believe
  • Stand up for yourself

Ask me anything.

The conversations about her work, career, beliefs, and attitudes are entertaining and enlightening.

Here’s a list of the Episode titles and a little bit about what’s covered in each:

Episode 1: Sad Ass Song 

Covers her persona, her songwriting and music tradition, and the lasting themes in her music

Episode 2: I Will Always Leave You

She answers questions about her long career, how she had to stand up for herself, and how following her intuition made all the difference 

Episode 3: Tennessee Mountain Trance

We learn about Dolly’s roots and how her songs about home resonate with people on a larger scale

Episode 4: Neon Moss

Expands on the idea of home and the longing we sometimes feel for something long gone

Episode 5: Dollitics

How Dolly handles politics by not handling politics

Episode 6: The Only One For Me, Jolene

How many different ways can you interpret a song that seems to have an obvious message? If the song is “Jolene,” a whole bunch of ways.

Episode 7: Dolly Parton’s America

There is a class at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville called Dolly Parton’s America. This episode discusses America in the context of the South and Appalachia as it is explored in the class.

Episode 8: Dixie Disappearance

A “Dixie” controversy at Dollywood and the larger issue of addressing the injustices of the past and the symbols that commemorate them.

Episode 9: She’s Alive!

Dolly talks about religion, her faith, and her plans to have her music far outlive her. 

Also, 2 bonus episodes feature her music performed by other artists. 

For more information, click here to go to the Podcast webpage

Stay focused

4 Strategies to keep you focused and get stuff done

I’ve been struggling to stay focused lately, or more to the point, struggling to not want to be distracted when I have stuff to do.

Squirrel.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about listening better. And, yeah, I’m working on it.

But focusing on being a better listener has made me realize my very self-sabatoging tendency to allow distractions to shift my focus.

I allow myself to be distracted by things, people, stuff, and, here’s the biggee, I tend to actually look for things to distract myself — stuff that sucks me in and keeps me from work/tasks/commitments that matter to me. 

Distractions abound. And when I’m bored, tired, out of my groove, or wanting to do anything other than what I’m doing, I look for a distraction. 

Squirrel.

Especially when the task is difficult, tedious, boring, or otherwise unappealing. That’s when I most want to look at/think about/read about something else, which keeps me from doing what’s most important to me.

Must stay focused, but….squirrel!

Recently, I’d been working on a blogpost when, for no good reason, I logged on to Facebook. I had no business there, no real purpose for going there other than to distract myself. All I wanted was a little diversion, just a quick glance at something else.

Well don’t you know, I got sucked into the Facebook vortex.

20 minutes later!…I finally pulled myself away and logged off.

And it isn’t just FB. I might pick up my phone to check the weather, but I end up reading news headlines and checking Instagram and maybe looking to see what’s showing at the movies. Or maybe I’ll just have some Valentines’ Day chocolate.

So, with a conservative estimate on a regular day, I can easily spend about an hour on stuff not in line with my priorities. 

7 hours a week. 30 hours a month. 360 hours a year. That’s 15 days. Of my life!

Time well-spent? 

Almost certainly not.

Someone once said: Time is our most valuable non-renewable resource. 

(I looked it up and according to Goodreads.com, it was Albert-Laszlo Barabasi in his book, Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do)

You are so right, Albert!

The clock is ticking, man.

And if time is my most valuable non-renewable resource then what am I doing wasting so much of it? 

I had to ask myself, how can I shift my mindset to help me stay focused on what I’m doing?

Here’s what I know: I get way more long-lasting satisfaction from completing something on my “To Do” list than from scanning news headlines, checking email, or mindless snacking. 

When I complete a task from my “To Do” list I know I’ve done what I set out to do and spent my nonrenewable resource on something that’s important to me.

And that sense of accomplishment has a snowball effect. It gives me momentum.

I’ve proven to myself that I can focus and accomplish what I set out to accomplish. (Honestly, even if it’s something as “boring” as doing the laundry. Not my favorite thing to do, but necessary, and now…done. Check.)

Here are a few strategies I’m using to combat my tendency to seek distractions to avoid important but difficult/boring/challenging/mundane tasks.

Have a plan

I work well with a “To Do” list and a calendar. On the calendar I mark my deadlines, some self-imposed and arbitrary, others imposed by others and firm, like April 15 tax filing deadline. 

By Sunday night, or at the latest Monday morning, I have a plan for my week. I list what I will work on every day. That’s my “To do” list. If for some reason I don’t get to something on my “To Do” list for that day, I push it back to the following day or earliest possible day. 

What works best for me is scheduling slightly more than I think I can do. And then I prioritize my list, taking into account any factors that may affect the schedule. 

I’ve been using this strategy for a while and I’m surprised how lost I am without a plan.

The other day I had nothing on my schedule except to spend the day with a relative. She got sick and had to cancel. I was left with my blank schedule board and I had to think for a few minutes about how to best regroup.

If you want to stay more focused, try writing a daily plan.

Be flexible

Things are going to come up, which is all the more reason to seize the day when you have the chance.

When you do what’s important instead of squandering your life away on stupid stuff that doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things, you’re better prepared for the unexpected.

It’s like money in the bank for a rainy day.

Set a timer

Depending on your work environment and level of potential distractions, I’ve found it very helpful to give myself a set amount of time to work on something on my list. 

Let’s say, for example, I have an idea for a blogpost. I know what I want to say and I’m ready to write. I set my timer for 30 minutes. 

Begin.

Everything’s great, I’m rolling along, but then I hit a snag. I get into the weeds and start questioning myself, doubting the validity of my message, and dozens of other things that sidetrack me. 

That’s when I’m most likely to start looking for something else to do or think about. 

But if I’ve set my timer, I’ve committed to write until my timer goes off. I know I can stay focused and write for 30 minutes, so I keep going.

Often, pushing through that yuck phase gets me back on track so when my timer goes off, I find I can go another 30 minutes. 

If 30 minutes seems too long, start with 10 or 20 minutes until you build your stamina, your “stay focused” muscle.

Set your priorities and purpose

When I worked as an elementary school librarian, I had so much stuff to do every day. Inventory, shelving books, ordering books, researching books to order, teaching classes, etc, in addition to the incidental interruptions like fire drills, staff meetings in the library, etc. There was no way I could do everything I had to do. 

So I had to prioritize. I gave myself deadlines, did what I could, made daily lists, and tried to remember that, above all things, I was there for the students.

I tried very hard to keep my purpose in mind: Connect kids with books and foster a love of reading.

Every day was a challenge and I probably lost my cool a few times. (A few dozen times if you count lunch duty.) But I tried very hard to stay focused on what was most important.

Those strategies again

So when you want to stay focused and get stuff done

  • Have a plan
  • Be flexible
  • Set your timer
  • Set your priorities and purpose 

We can do more than we think we can, but only if we stay focused on the tasks at hand, set our priorities, and treat time as our most valuable nonrenewable resource.

Can you relate? Do you put off tasks you’ll know you’ll eventually have to do? Do you leave work that really matters to you for stuff that doesn’t matter to you much at all? What strategies do you use to get past it? 

Movie theater Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

4 Great movies from 2019 you might have missed

From the movie recommendation files, here are 4 great movies you might have missed from 2019.

Brittany Runs a Marathon

I had no idea what to expect from this movie. Had seen the previews and it looked like a sweet film about a young woman named Briattany who—guess what—runs a marathon. 

What I hadn’t expected was what made the movie so endearing to me.

Brittany’s decision to run a marathon puts her on a journey of self-discovery that force her to face some longstanding limiting beliefs about herself (like body image and trust issues) and how deeply those beliefs are ingrained in her.

Still, Brittany is all in and committed to go from couch potato to marathon finisher.

But, as in life, complications ensue and that’s when she’s faced with her most difficult challenge of accepting that she is worthy of love and acceptance. 

Brittany’s struggles were so relatable. I found myself totally invested in her success and wanted to cheer her on to the finish line.

For more information: Brittany Runs a Marathon

Yesterday

What would happen if there were a worldwide blackout and somehow The Beatles and all their music were wiped out of existence and memory. Like John, Paul, George, and Ringo weren’t a thing. What if no one had heard of them, except for one guy?

That’s what the premise of Yesterday.

The guy who, by some strange and magical force, knows who they are and knows their music is a struggling musician himself. Crazy things start happening when he starts playing all The Beatles music as his own. His career takes off.

Suddenly, everything is awesome! He’s a global sensation. More popular than he ever imagined.

But his new-found fame turns his world upside-down. He knows he must examine his own values, to decide for himself what makes a life worth living at the end of the long and winding road. 

The premise of Yesterday is completely implausible and will not stand up to the scrutiny of examination (how could he be the only one who remembers?) but if you can accept the story as fiction and just go with it, you may find the ride as wonderful as I did.

Movie page: Yesterday

The River and the Wall

There are so many things I loved about this movie that chronicles the 1200-mile trek along the Texas-Mexico border from El Paso to the Golf of Mexico.

The River and the Wall captures the breathtakingly beautiful, rugged wildlife and scenery of the area. That, alone, makes the movie worth watching.

If you have a chance to see it on a big screen, I highly recommend it. The open spaces are breathtaking and I felt a deep sense of protectiveness for the land and a deep sense of our connectedness.

For me, it complicated the whole issue of border security and immigration. And that’s one of the things that makes the movie outstanding. It takes this simple idea of a river and a wall and shows you how it’s not all that simple.

You have this big issue of immigration and protecting US borders and those are important.

But then you look at the people affected by a wall and the stories about how it will change people’s lives and their livelihood, and about birds and animals don’t know anything about treaties and undocumented migration.

The issue seems way more nuanced.

The land was here thousands of years before we got here and will be here thousands of years after we’re gone. To build a wall feels like the most excessive, ridiculous way to solve the problem. It’s like performing surgery with a sledgehammer. An expensive sledgehammer.

Movie website: theriverandthewall.com

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

When I first saw that Tom Hanks was playing Mr. Rogers, I thought, Tom Hanks can’t possibly pull it off. 

Well, I was wrong. He pulls it off beautifully. But what surprised me more was the way the story came about and how the movie wasn’t really about Mr. Rogers. 

The film is based on a true story about a reporter who gets an assignment to write about Mr. Rogers. He’s not a fan and tries to get out of it, but he can’t so he approaches the whole thing with a “let’s get this over with” attitude. 

The movie is about what how that assignment changes everything for him. So it’s about Mr. Rogers but not a biopic.

This was one of those movies that when it ended, I thought, Omg. Everyone should see this movie.

The message of love and compassion and forgiveness and the way we’re all connected and capable of building each other up is something we need so badly right now.

One line that I think about often is when the reporter meets Mrs. Rogers and asks, “What does it feel like to be married to a saint.” Her reaction is a kicker. She says she doesn’t like when people say that because it makes it seem like what he does is unattainable. But it’s not. He works at it just like we can all work at it. 

I loved Mr. Rogers (the real Mr. Rogers) and didn’t expect to love this movie, but I found it uplifting and beautiful and powerful. A must see.

Official website: abeautifulday.movie

What do they have in common?

I found myself wondering what theme or message ties these together and resonates with my own writing?

You definitely will see the character arc, but the big message is how we can build up or break down. That our actions, beliefs impact us, yes, but also the people around us and maybe people we’ll never meet, that we create a ripple effect in the world. We’re connected and our actions (or inactions) affect others.

We each have our own stories to tell. And they may not make headlines or create a buzz, but that doesn’t mean they’re not important. You never know who you’re inspiring with your actions.

In case you missed my recent post about going to the movies, check it out here.

Movie theater

A movie at a movie theater is still the best

I want to take a few minutes of your time to talk about going to the movies. I know, it’s kind of a strange thing to talk about because what’s there to say, really? You either like it or you don’t. 

But I want to dive deeper into this activity, going to the movies, not just the medium. Sure there are a gazillion movies you can stream at home for a fraction of the cost of going to a movie theater. 

And depending on the circumstances, that can be fine. 

But I believe there’s nothing like the experience of watching a movie at a movie theater so I’m going to talk about why it’s still the best way to experience cinema.

The screen.

Mark and I went to a special screening of Jaws last year and I don’t think I’ve been as scared of that mechanical shark since I first saw it in 1975 when it was first released.

Jaws was a summer blockbuster that year. My cousins and I waited in a line that wrapped around the Century South Theater building. (You don’t see that much anymore)

I’ve seen Jaws on TV tons of times. Still good, but not scary. 

But omg. ***spoiler alert in case you haven’t seen Jaws**** When the shark comes after the guy at the end, his blood-curdling, high-pitched, agonizing shriek made me cringe for real. It was horrible. Maybe the sound system added to the experience. 

And one scene when they’re out on the boat and it’s twilight, I never noticed in all the times I’ve seen the movie, what a beautiful shot that is or the shooting star flashing across sky. 

Nothing can make a bad movie good, but a good movie is better at the theater. And maybe intended to be experienced on the big screen. 

It’s a communal event.

Getting out and seeing people and sharing the movie experience is a thing. You may not talk to fellow movie-goers, but you now have a shared experience. Mark and I usually sit through the credits and we always talk about what we saw.

Sometimes it’s a short conversation, like Wow that was really good. And then we talk about why. I’m not saying this type of dialogue isn’t possible at home, but at home we’re more likely to switch it to something else immediately and it’s just not the same.

At one of the movie theaters we go to there’s an older crowd and I believe they must have a movie club. I think that’s a great idea, like book clubs discuss what you read, movie clubs discuss what you saw, what you liked, what you didn’t like. What a great way to connect with people. 

Gets you out of the house.

You know the animated science-fiction Pixar movie Wall E? Earth has been destroyed and humans hover on a home ship waiting for the all clear to go back to earth. Well, in the Wall E world, humans don’t have to get out of their chair for anything, not even a drink, because they have an AI/robot doing everything for them.

Does that sound just a teensy bit familiar?

We can stream just about everything from home, get our fast food and groceries and whatever else we desire delivered…it’s almost like we’re conveniencing ourselves right into the Wal E future. Agh!

It might be easier to stay home and watch a movie, but easier is not always better. Going to the movies gets you out of the house. And there are tons of theaters now that will serve you once you’re there. 

The many elements of moviemaking

Years and years ago, I took a film class at San Antonio College. It was a summer session class and our final assignment was to make a short film, 4-5 mins. We shot on an 8 mm camera and had free reign of the campus. Of the 7 or 8 films made in that class, only 1 came even close to being decent (not my group’s) which was suprising as heck because we’d seen the raw footage. Terrible. As bad or worse than the rest.

Somehow, that crappy footage was pieced together to be funny and interesting. The magic was in the editing.

Making a movie is really hard to do.  When you watch a movie you’re watching the result of maybe years of effort, collaboration, coordination, prepation, and work. All for you.

It’s kinda cool when you think of it that way, isn’t it?

I’d love to know what you think. Do you go to the movies? If not, why not? If you do, what about it do you like?

Read more about going to the movies on the blogpost: Going to the Movies

Listen more, get more

What can you gain when you listen better?

As someone a long time ago once said, We have 2 ears and 1 mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. (According to Goodreads.com, Greek philosopher Epictetus said it about two-thousand years ago.)

2 ears, 1 mouth. Listen better. Sure. Sounds good.

Makes sense, even, but I’m afraid it’s not working out that way. Not for me, anyway.

I used to think I was a pretty good listener and included listening as one of my strenghts. I’m not sure what happened to my listening skills. 

I’ll give you an example of what I mean.

This is an actual conversation I’ve had with my husband:

Me: How was your day?

Mark: It was good. Busy, but good. 

5 minutes later

Me: How was your day?

Mark: You just asked me that.

Me: (deer in headlights look) I did?

Mark: Yes

Me: Really?

Mark: Yes

Me: What did you say?

Mark: (Long pause) It was fine.

Whoa. That’s pretty crappy. The problem was not that I forgot what he’d said.

No, the problem was I wasn’t listening. I wasn’t fully present even as I stood right there with him?

Why not? Was I asking a question because I felt the need to speak, to fill the silent space? I don’t know. 

But I know I can do better. I want to do better. 

The thing is I believe listening is one of the most fundatmental ways of showing love. It’s pretty basic really.

When we truly listen to another person, we’re fully present, body and mind, engaged in what that person is saying.

But why is it so hard to do sometimes?

There are many possible reasons.

Maybe we’re

  • thinking about something that happened earlier
  • formulating a response to what is being said
  • wondering when this person will stop talking
  • dying to check our weather app
  • itching to check new posts on Instagram (or Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

When petty stuff distracts me so much that I can’t listen well to someone I love, that’s a problem.

And it’s not just hearing their words that’s important. It’s giving them my full attention. Listening, yes, but also seeing, feeling, and being completely present in the moments that make up my life.

I realize, for example, how quick I am to pull out my phone or think about pulling it out for no good reason. Major distraction.

Shifting focus

The other day, I held my 2-month old granddaughter in my arms while she slept. It was just us and the house was quiet, except for the faint squeak of the rocking chair I sat in.

I thought, Hey, there are tons of movies I’ve been wanting to watch. Maybe I can watch a movie. Or maybe I can listen to an audiobook.

But because I’ve been thinking about this whole idea of “listening” and what it means to listen and be fully present, I stopped myself, didn’t pick up my phone or turn on the TV.

It was so quiet. 

I just sat there and listened. To the quiet, to her breath, to her sigh. And the listening caused me to feel her more, her presence, the weight of her in my arms.

In that moment, I found myself overcome with immense gratitude for the amazing miracle I held in my arms. I prayed for angels to watch over her and for her protection, now and always. 

No movie or book could ever compare to the magnitude of that moment for me. I’ll always remember it as a gift, made possible by the power of listening. 

I know this to be true. And you know what? As wonderful and awesome as it was, I still struggle. It’s still hard for me to listen. 

This is something I have to practice every day, for myself as much as for anyone else.

Listening is an act of love. It connects us to the world, life, people, our surroundings. The Universe has something to say and if we don’t listen we could miss it forever.

Do you struggle to listen? What keeps you from being a better listener? I’d love to hear from you in the comments : ) 

Read more about listening (to yourself) on this post: Discover the value of your intuition

Listen to this

“Becoming Wise” podcast offers morsels of wisdom

I was looking for a podcast to listen to, something short, but packed with insight. That’s how I stumbled on the podcast called “Becoming Wise”

The name intrigued me because, How do you become wise? And what is wisdom anyway?

But as I perused, I saw that the podcasts are short, around 10 minutes long, so they’re like morsels of wisdom, and feature big-idea people like Brené Brown, Seth Godin, and Desmond Tutu.

The last episode was published July 2019 so it looked like the podcast may be done, but I decided to give it a listen anyway.

Compassion changes everything

One segment title caught my attention: Compassion for Our Bodies. I thought, Oh yeah. Let me check out what they have to say about having compassion for my ever-changing, menopausal body.

The podcast host, Krista Tippett, introduced Matthew Sanford, an innovator of adaptive yoga who’s been in a wheelchair for 30 years, since an accident that killed his father and sister when he was 14 -years old.

Mr. Sanford says, “Your body, for as long as it possibly can, will be faithful to living. That’s what it does.” This from a man who has endured numerous operations and painful recoveries. He says of his experience, “My body didn’t ask to get hammered and break, and to have its spine shredded, and many bones broken. But it went, ‘Ok. Let’s regroup. Let’s go.’” He also says, “I look at places — skin on my body, old pressure sores and old stuff that happened — where you can see the skin is struggling to stay and hold. I don’t think, ‘It’s not holding, dang it.’ I feel like, ‘Man, it’s working as hard as it can.’

Whoa! How true! 

That philosophy is something I’ve tried to practice for a while now, but what a great reminder. The interview got me thinking, How can this idea help me as I age and my body changes and I’m less able to do what I used to do?

Mr. Sanford’s insight opened me up to have more compassion for my body and gratitude that it “for as long as it possibly can, will be faithful to living.”

How can I dislike any part of my body when it does nothing but work for me, even when I eat too much, skip my workout(s), or don’t get enough sleep?

The episode had me saying, Thank you, body. You’re amazing and wonderful and I’m sorry I don’t treat you like it sometimes.

A small bite of food for thought

If you’re looking for a small helping of something of substance, I recommend “Becoming Wise” Podcast. I like to listen to an episode and mentally chew on it for a while.

Here’s a sample of some other episode titles:

Courage is Born from Struggle with Brené Brown
Beauty is an Edge of Becoming with John O’Donohue
We Choose Our Own Tribes with Seth Godin
Healing Through Story with Desmond Tutu
The Everyday Gift of Writing with Naomi Shihab Nye
Evil, Forgiveness, and Prayer with Elie Wiesel

That’s quite a sampling, don’t you think?

There are a total of 37 episodes. Happy listening!

For more reading on the blog about “Aging” read Getting older and how to be okay with it

For more information about Becoming Wise or Krista Tippett’s other work, go to The On Being Project at onbeing.org.

If you have a chance to listen, share your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

Read more books

Want to read more books? Maybe Libby can help.

If it’s been a while since you read a book or just think it’s time for you to make the time to read more, allow me to introduce you to Libby.

“What’s Libby?” you ask. 

Read more books with Libby
This is the Libby App

Libby is a free app where you can borrow ebooks and digital audiobooks from your public library. You can stream books with Wi-Fi or mobile data, or download them for offline use and read anytime, anywhere. All you need to get started is a library card. 

https://help.libbyapp.com/6144.htm accessed 1/27/2020

If you want to read more books, Libby may be able help. You can stream or download magazines, ebooks and audiobooks in a wide range of subjects and genres.

Screen shot of The Dutch House Audiobook

I’m currently enjoying the audiobook “The Dutch House” by Ann Patchett, read by Tom Hanks. The book is beautifully written and I’m toward the end of it now. (I have a feeling I know what’s going to happen, but we’ll see.) Tom Hanks is a great narrator, though I admit, at times he sounds just like Woody from Toy Story : ) 

With Libby, you can read ebooks anytime, anywhere on your phone or tablet and listen to audiobooks while driving or cooking dinner.

To get started with Libby. 

1. Get a library card from your local library. 

2. Download the Libby app on your mobile device. 

3. Link your library card to Libby. 

4. Find a book or audiobook on the app.

5. Start listening/reading.

While I use Libby a lot these days, I’m finding it important to keep reading print books as well.

For these reasons:

1. I have to hold a book in my hands and focus on the text. That means no multi-tasking. 

2. I give the writer my full attention. It’s only courteous if you think about it. He or she is talking to me!

3. It forces me to practice reading the words on the page, instead of skimming the text, a bad habit I’ve developed by skimming headlines online.

Take a look. It’s in a book.

If you really want to read more but haven’t gotten started, Libby can help you “turn the page” toward a more robust reading life.

For more information about Libby, availability, and how to get started, go to LibbyHelp

Think listening to an audiobook is cheating? Sometimes it kind of feels that way to me too, but this article in Discover magazine offers an interesting insight to reading vs. listening: Audiobooks or Reading? To our brains, it doesn’t matter

Have you been thinking about reading more? Do you have a book you’ve been dying to read? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.